'Amusement city' planned for bin Laden town
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Pakistan is planning to build a $30 million amusement park with a zoo and adventure sports facilities in the town where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces, officials said Monday.
The 50-acre (20-hectare) riverside development on the edge of Abbottabad, where US Navy SEALs shot the Al-Qaeda leader dead on May 2, 2011, will include restaurants, a heritage centre and artificial waterfalls.
The government of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province hopes the project, announced as a public-private partnership, will boost tourism but denied it was intended to improve the town's image after the humiliation of the bin Laden raid.
"The amusement city will be built on 50 acres in the first phase but later will be extended to 500 acres," Syed Aqil Shah, the provincial minister for tourism and sports, told AFP.
"It will have a heritage park, wildlife zoo, food street, adventure and paragliding clubs, waterfalls and jogging tracks."
Work is due to begin in late February or early March, he said, and will take eight years to complete. Funds worth three billion rupees ($30 million) have been allocated, he said.
Abbottabad, a quiet, leafy town nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas around 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Islamabad, has long been a popular spot for well-heeled families from the capital to spend weekends away.
The town also houses Pakistan's elite military academy and the discovery of the world's most wanted man on its doorstep prompted allegations of incompetence or complicity between the armed forces and the 9/11 mastermind.
But Shah insisted the new development was simply about promoting tourism, not polishing the town's tarnished image.
"This project has nothing to do with Osama bin Laden," he told AFP.
"We are working to promote tourism and amusement facilities in the whole province and this project is one of those facilities."
The authorities demolished the compound where bin Laden hid with his wives and children last February, fearing it could become a shrine to Al-Qaeda followers.